David Lerman

Democrats seek to put teeth into ‘impoundment’ law
Going to court is only current option to force release of funds

A fresh legal opinion challenging President Donald Trump’s hold on Ukraine military aid under a Nixon-era budget law may or may not move the needle with senators in the president’s impeachment trial.

But one thing is clear: Trump’s delay of $214 million in Pentagon funds is just the latest in a long line of findings by the Government Accountability Office going back decades that presidents of both parties have run afoul of the 1974 law. That statute was aimed at restricting “impoundments,” where the executive branch refuses to spend money appropriated by Congress.

An agonizing dispute among terror victims
Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund splitting payouts under questionable rationale

Four decades ago, William Daugherty, a former CIA operative, was held hostage in Iran for 444 days. His wait for the financial compensation policymakers had promised him will now be a lot longer than that.

A fund created in 2015 for the Iran hostages and other victims of state-sponsored terrorism has become a new source of cash for relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks waged by al-Qaida terrorists on New York and Washington. President Donald Trump in November signed into law a measure that divided the fund in half, splitting the revenue between two competing groups: victims of state-sponsored terrorism like Daugherty and the 9/11 families.

Puerto Rico earthquake supplemental under discussion in House
HUD ignored a Sept. 4 deadline set by Congress

 

Updated 4:39 p.m. House Appropriations Democrats are looking at a possible emergency spending package to provide additional aid to Puerto Rico following a series of earthquakes since late last year, including a 5.2 magnitude quake Wednesday.

House passes restored ‘SALT’ deduction bill
Democrats deal symbolic blow to Republicans’ tax code overhaul

House Democrats dealt a symbolic blow to Republicans’ tax code overhaul Thursday on the two-year anniversary of that law’s passage. 

On a mostly party-line vote of 218-206, the House passed a bill that would make good on a top Democratic tax priority: lifting a $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT. It was amended to prevent households earning more than $100 million from claiming unlimited deductions, however, after a procedural motion offered by Republicans won enough bipartisan support.

Year-end spending deal avoids government shutdown
CQ Budget, Ep. 137

With fiscal 2020 appropriations finally complete, CQ Roll Call's budget and tax editor Peter Cohn explains what got funded, what it means, and what lies in store for next year.

Lowey: Appropriations deal could be struck this weekend
House Appropriations chairwoman says House could vote next week

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said Friday the House could begin voting on final spending bills for the current fiscal year next week.

After months of partisan stalemate, the New York Democrat struck a decidedly optimistic tone in predicting that negotiations on a final spending deal could wrap up this weekend, clearing the way for floor votes to begin. Lawmakers have been scrambling to complete a deal before current funding runs dry on Dec. 20.

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

Appropriators set Friday deadline for unresolved issues
Signals renewed intent to get a spending bill deal completed before the holiday recess

Individual spending bill negotiators are attempting to resolve lingering disputes this week before kicking any final disagreements upstairs.

Subcommittee heads have until Friday to give Appropriations Committee leadership a list of the sticking points that must be settled to complete work on fiscal 2020 bills, lawmakers said Wednesday.

Wasserman Schultz enters race for top Democrat on Appropriations
It’s now a three-way contest for Lowey’s replacement

The race to become the next top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee widened into a three-way contest Thursday.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz declared her intention to run for the job that will be left vacant when Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey of New York retires at the end of her current term. Lowey, 82, announced last month she would step down after 31 years in Congress.

Senate budget writers offer up a revamped budget process
CQ Budget, Ep. 133

The Senate Budget Committee drafted legislation for an overhaul of the broken budget process that includes a move toward biennial budgets. But any change is still an uphill fight, as Paul M. Krawzak and Kate Ackley explain.

Budget deficit nears the $1 trillion mark
CQ Budget, Ep. 131

The fiscal 2019 deficit was up 26 percent over the 2018 level. Paul M. Krawzak unpacks what accounts for the rising red ink.

Four spending bills on the move; Democrats eye allocations deal
Leaders scramble to make headway on appropriations for fiscal year before stopgap measure runs dry

Democratic leaders Tuesday called for bicameral talks to reconcile competing spending allocations for long-delayed fiscal 2020 appropriations bills.

With barely five weeks left before the current stopgap funding measure runs dry, congressional leaders are scrambling to make headway on appropriations for the fiscal year that began on Oct.1. Lawmakers have already acknowledged that another stopgap could be needed to fund at least part of the government and avoid a shutdown before Thanksgiving.

Four appropriations bills slated for Senate floor this week
A procedural vote to take up the bill could occur Tuesday or early Wednesday

Senate leaders plan to jump-start the stalled appropriations process by taking up a package of four spending bills this week that have strong bipartisan support.

Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican, announced plans to bring to the floor a package that combines the fiscal 2020 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD bills. The Appropriations Committee had advanced all four measures on unanimous votes.

Senate floor debate beckons amid spending bill impasse
Under stopgap law, lawmakers have about five weeks to reach funding agreement

The Senate next week could debate a package of spending bills that have received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, according to Chairman Richard C. Shelby.

“I’ve been hearing that and conversations lend me to think there’s a good chance,” the Alabama Republican said Wednesday, noting that the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think there are five, six, seven appropriations bills that we could pass if we get to the floor.”

Federal judge rules Trump border wall declaration unlawful
Diversion of military funds violates fiscal 2018 omnibus spending law

A federal judge ruled Friday that President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to divert military funding to a southern border wall is unlawful.

In a 33-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Briones said Trump’s effort to divert more than $6 billion that Congress provided for military projects violates the fiscal 2019 omnibus spending law. 

Averting a government shutdown
CQ Budget, Episode 128

The House passed a continuing resolution last week to extend current funding through Nov. 21, giving Congress an extra eight weeks to get its work done. The Senate is scheduled to vote on a measure later this week. But there’s more in this resolution than just a simple funding extension.

Why partisan spending allocations spell trouble for the appropriations process
CQ Budget, Episode 127

After months of delay, Senate appropriators finally got to work on their spending bills for the new fiscal year, which begins in just two weeks. But it was a slower start than lawmakers had hoped for, and unlike last year’s effort, it was deeply partisan. The Appropriations Committee approved its overall spending limits for each of its 12 bills, but it wasn’t pretty. Where do they go from here? Listen here.

Senate appropriations process continues to devolve
Labor-HHS-Education and State-Foreign Operations spending bills mired in abortion dispute

Senate appropriators have abandoned plans to mark up two spending bills Thursday that have become mired in a partisan dispute over abortion policy.

The Appropriations Committee announced it will postpone consideration of its fiscal 2020 Labor-HHS-Education bill and its State-Foreign Operations bill. As of Wednesday evening, the panel still planned to take up its Defense and Energy-Water bills at a full committee markup, along with a measure that would divvy up total discretionary spending among the 12 subcommittees.

Border wall, other disputes sidetrack Senate spending work
Panel's markup is delayed; government funding lapses on Oct. 1

The Senate’s appropriations process fell into disarray Tuesday after a scheduled markup was abruptly postponed in a dispute over policy riders, and a fight over the border wall threatened to hold up defense spending.

Democrats were also resisting the GOP majority’s proposed subcommittee allocations that are needed to draft the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills. And some lawmakers said there was still no agreement between the House and Senate on the length of a stopgap funding measure that will be needed to avoid a government shutdown come next month, when the new fiscal year begins.